With seven figure sums being thrown around in the Championship for fun, Karl Robinson admits MK Dons underestimated just how much money they’d need to compete in the second tier.
Dons failed to pick up a striker on transfer deadline day - not for the want of trying, but because they were priced out of a deal which could have bolstered their front line.
Elsewhere in the Championship, rumours were abound that Wolves had turned away huge money from Norwich City for former Dons loanee Benik Afobe, while Bristol City and Burnley went to battle for Andre Gray - the latter winning the fight with a £9 million fee.
Robinson is keen to remind to anyone who will listen that his side have the smallest budget in the division, and one much lower than any club has been able to survive relegation on.
But he said the club have been stunned by the level of financial disparity across the 24 teams.
“We were shocked by the enormity of the finances required at this level,” he said. “It has taken us all by surprise. You read and you hope there’s a lick of paint put on it. But there’s not. We just have to do what we can do with out budget.
“We know where we are, and with the fans we’ll stick together knowing who we are rather than moaning about what we haven’t got.
“I read things in other papers about players who are available but no-one knows who is available, or how much they’re on. We can’t just go out and play Football Manager, we’ve got to stick to a budget. And that has been the same here since League 1.”
Robinson also defended his summer recruitment, despite failing to land his primary target in last season’s top scorer Will Grigg, who moved to League 1 side Wigan Athletic from Brentford, adding the desire from fans to make a marquee signing isn’t always the best approach.
He said: “We’re trying to be sustainable and approach it in the right way. It’s so easy to detach from that and go out and spend big money on one player. What if he gets injured? It’s a big risk and one we cannot afford to make.
“The chairman has taken every bit of extra money into the first team. But that’s still a long way from other clubs. He runs the club in a calculated way.
“We can’t start running at this level too soon. He knows where we are short. But we have to do it in the right way.”